Our team runs a database of state organisations and public officials in Belarus. You may think about it as Wikipedia devoted to activities of Belarusian civil servants. Its purpose is to enable citizens to conduct a democratic audit of the work of appointed and elected officials in Belarus. It is a kind of ‘health check’ on the state of country’s (non)democracy. The platform is also educational and teaches users how to use existing legal mechanisms to protect their rights.
What problem are you trying to solve?
When it comes to democracy and human rights, Belarus is among the most problematic countries in Europe. A long period of re-occurring state repressions against the dissenting individuals and groups caused disintegration and weakening of the politically active segment of civil society, debilitation of the independent media, and widespread fear to express own disagreement with the state bodies among citizens. Citizens often found themselves helpless and disempowered in their interactions with the state officials and started to doubt their ability to improve political, social, and economic situation in their community. Consequently, the state structures, elected and appointed officials did not bother to work in a transparent or democratic ways as they did not feel accountable to anybody but President or controlling state bodies. The number of rights violations and pressure on citizens, especially on the local level, started to grow dramatically.
What is your solution to this problem?
Our solution is to empower citizens to monitor and follow up the activity of concrete civil servants demanding transparency and accountability in state employees’ work. For this we developed an on-line tool: a database chinovniki.info. This database stores information about the civil servants in Belarus, their profiles are connected to the official documents proving their lawful ‘good’ activities and illegal acts such as instances of corruption and violation of the human rights. The platform allows tracking the carrier change and connections between various civil servants and state bodies. It has an educational component and teaches citizens how to use national legal mechanisms to press charges against the civil servants’ illegal acts. The team of the project also helps individuals to use existing laws to restore them in their rights.
What is your latest update on your innovation?
This is an ongoing initiative with several phases. It stated with a pilot project in 2013. After testing it and searching for funding, the actual project started in 2016. To date the database contains names of 107 388 civil servants, 115 353 state organisations, 1 470 documents. The website was visited by 1 141 169 users, 231 401 users voted for the best and for the worst civil servants in their experience.
Currently we are working on 3 aspects of the website: making it more interacting and engaging for the users, strengthening its educational part, and better tracking of the work of the state representatives and officials. This includes a possibility for comments by the users, a count-down system tracking how fast promises given by the public officials are implemented, freely available templates for official complaints or statement of claim on various issues, description of cases, account of bad/good practices of the public officials.
Why are you going to win the Best Innovation for Development Award?
This is an easy-to-use tool that anybody with access to the Internet can use. This instrumental and educational database helps to address such issues as: